Proposal to sterilize wild mares condemned

Virginia Range wild horses
Virginia Range wild horses. © Anne Novak

A horse advocacy group has condemned the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board’s proposal to sterilize some wild mares.

Protect Mustangs says the procedure carries health risks for the animals, including the possibility of death.

It said it had yet to see an accurate independent headcount to prove alleged overpopulation is an issue, despite multiple requests for such evidence.

The organisation also called for a Congressional investigation into what it alleges is a conflict of interest on the board which is catering to livestock and extractive industries.

“This cruel plan could kill many federally protected wild horses,” says Anne Novak, executive director for Protect Mustangs.

“We oppose spaying wild mares in the field because it’s a high-risk procedure. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is charged with protecting wild horses, not putting their lives in jeopardy. ”

The group said it wanted an independent audit to determine the number of mustangs in the wild and in holding facilities.

“Show us an independent headcount and then let’s talk about overpopulation – if it’s a realistic concern,” says Novak.

“Right now we see the BLM inflating the population numbers to justify rampant million-dollar roundups, money dumped into fertility research and funds spent to warehouse 50,000 captive wild horses. Today, maybe 17,000 are left in all 10 western states. This could be the end for America’s indigenous free roaming wild horse.

“We are concerned the anti-mustang advisory board is spreading disinformation about reproduction rates,” she says.

“Life is harsh on the range. Wild horses don’t reproduce like rabbits and many foals die before they are two. Saying the herds double every five years is an invented distortion to push through radical policy endangering mustangs.”

The group said sterilizing mares under such circumstances had at least a 10 per cent death rate and a pandora’s box full of complications.

A federally employed veterinarian, Dr Al Kane, was reported as saying to the  Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in a 2011 report: “It’s a lot more complicated and the potential for complications and side effects is much greater. The potential effects on herd behavior or individual mare behavior are an issue.”

Protect Mustangs urged the public to contact elected officials in Congress to seek an inquiry into alleged conflicts of interest on the board and an independent audit of wild horse numbers.

“The public loves American wild horses,” says Kerry Becklund, director of outreach for Protect Mustangs.

“We want the BLM and their biased Advisory Board to back off and quit trying to wipe them out.”

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7 thoughts on “Proposal to sterilize wild mares condemned

  • November 1, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Let’s flesh this out a bit.
    You don’t want them rounded up.
    You don’t want them sent off to new places.
    You don’t want them to starve to death due to overpopulation.
    You don’t want people to go out and euthanaise the excess horses.
    But you don’t want a solution to overpopulation that is practical and long term either??

    Oh no!! Sterilising the mares has a 10% death rate! There are many things that we do that have high death rates. But guess what else has a high death rate?
    Starvation due to lack of food and overpopulation.

    Something has to be done, but WHAT will make fanatic horse people happy?
    There must be a happy compromise somewhere, and “Just leave them alone!” benefits noone in the long term, least of all the horses.

    • November 2, 2012 at 2:53 am

      PROVE that there is a need first. No head count has been taken. Show advocates TRUE numbers and maybe we will help. Then return the millions of acres that have been taken from them (given to them by LAW)and remove the private owned cattle and sheep so fences can be torn down and the horses can roam to find food and water like they have done for centuries. Lets start with that first maybe try the medical alternative. But we need to see proof of the over population of wild horses. We know of the overpopulation of private owned, invasive cattle and sheep.

    • April 2, 2013 at 5:33 am

      Umm… Cattle out number mustangs 50:1 on lands that are legally set aside as a habit for mustangs. And where is this independant head cout every keeps asking for? You know, the one without fudged numbers? And do you understand the conect of genetic viabitlity? Because most mustang herds are below that level. It appears to me that there seems to be an under population if anything.

  • November 1, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    The big and only question is are they even overpopulated ?
    Where is the proof from more then just one side?

  • November 3, 2012 at 9:10 am

    America’s Wild Horses and Burros are anything BUT overpopulated. At best, there are barely 21,000 left and they are disappearing fast. If the roundups and removals are allowed to continue there will be NO Wild Horses OR Burros left in the United States. It is their Legally designated land that has disappeared. More than 22 Million acres have been taken from them and that is a conservative estimate. WHERE has that land gone and to WHO?

    Compiled by Carla Bowers 10/26/11 Revised 11/6/11
    For NAS/NRC Study Panel of BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program

    All numbers above are verifiable

    22.2 million: Number of acres WH&B have lost since 1971
    21,354: WH&B population as of 2/28/11 using BLM’s own data & 20% growth model (independent analysis)

    America’s “legally protected” WH&B are not getting a fair share of land, forage & water.

    The AML range of 16,000-26,600 for WH&B is too low & threatens the genetic viability & survival of healthy, self-sustaining herds over the long-term.
    An independent, state-of-the-art census is required

    America’s Wild Horses and Burros do NOT need to be captured or removed from their Legal Herd Managements Areas. There is NOT a problem with overpopulation. The problem has been in getting the TRUTH in the open and to the American taxpaying Public:


  • November 5, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Just common sense tells anyone that to capture a wild animal in the first place – no matter whether its bait trapping, or running it down with a helicopter stresses that animal out to put it mildly. Then administering (hopefully) a sedative to remove ovaries??? – this is invasive surgery even if its done with laporoscopy(?) With a domestic animal there are sometimes problems – but with a wild prey animal? What are these people smoking?
    I certainly dont have to be a “fanatic” to find something wrong with this idea.
    There IS scientific data out there – why is it so difficult for these people to actually study it?
    I guess because the end result they want is to get rid of the horses & burros.

    • November 6, 2012 at 2:52 am

      The end, as far as the BLM is concerned, justifies any and all spurious excuses and costly and dangerous strategies. I concur with your vision, Maggie.


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